If it hadn't been for the pink-haired boy from chemistry class, Lucy might have been driven absolutely up the wall. It was just her luck that she had to be paired up with Sting, the most obnoxious person in the whole class. All she ached to hear was the bell that would dismiss them for the day. The only downside, though, was if she heard the chime of the bell, that meant she needed to head straight to work.
Of course, she did greatly appreciate her job at the small gift shop downtown; it was normally quiet, warm, and gave her plenty of time to do her homework at the front desk. Christmas season, however, was a different story.
The place was bustling, customers generally asking stupid questions, complaining about their favorite brands being sold out, and children screaming in their parent's wake. Lucy was pretty done with humans when he walked in.
She'd been straightening her golden blonde locks after rushing around to find the right size shirt in the back that the customer had been demanding. When she looked up, he was walking in, halting as he noticed her behind the counter. Lucy recognized him; the boy that sat directly behind her. She knew his name was Natsu, he was a friend of her friends, he was loud and funny as well as a genius at chem.
And, admittedly, extremely cute.
Not that she noticed, of course.
Natsu looked mildly stricken to see her, but quickly recovered, shooting a wide grin before ambling off. Lucy tried not to let her eyes glance at him too much as she eventually resumed folding shirts. She peeked through her lowered lashes while Natsu filed through a rack of shirts. Normally, she would have to be over there by now—asking him if he needed any help—but her feet seemed to be stuck to the floor. She pretended not to notice the several pauses he made when picking up an item and studying it intently.
After selling a few chocolates, Natsu finally appeared at the counter, holding a…
What even is that?
"Why the hell are you choosing THAT for a gift for your crush?"
The words flew from her mouth before she realized how rude it sounded; it was her job to sell whatever the customer wanted! Not question it! Good thing her supervisor wasn't here today…
"Huh?" he said, startled. He blinked big eyes in the most innocent way so that her face warmed.
"I'm so sorry!" she said quickly, shaking her head. "That was very rude of me. U-um I'll, uh, get a bag and…"
"How did you know?"
"How did you know who it was for?" he implored, unabashed and looking interested.
"O-oh." Why can't I talk normally? "I-I, em, you looked a bit nervous… blushing and… at some jewelry…"
After a moment of a blank expression, his face morphed into a grin. "Well, I guess I knew you were smart."
"You're in my chem and English classes. You're smart."
The fact that he'd noticed that about her, a girl he'd hardly ever talked to, sent warmth through her chest. Lucy smiled. "Oh. Thank you. But in chemistry, you're top in the class."
His grin turned slightly cocky, and genuinely happy. "It just clicks with me, I guess. I like pyrotechnics so I already know some of that stuff!" He leaned on the counter, putting his cheek in his hand. "So, why shouldn't I get this for the girl?"
Her eyes fell back down to the fluffy, white stuffed animal. It looked a bit like a mix between a snowman and a dog. It… okay, it was really cute, but… "Well, I guess I just thought it's not something that shows she's special to you, and not what would make girls most interested in you."
"Most? What about you?"
Lucy frowned. "What… what about me?"
"You said most girls wouldn't like it much, but if a guy gave this to you… would you feel special and like it?"
The question caught her completely off guard. "Me? Um. Well." She cleared her throat, mumbling in admittance, "If it were me, I'd… I'd probably love it, but I'm a bit…"
"Weird," Natsu finished.
"I'm weird?" Lucy sputtered, crossing her arms.
"Yep!" he said cheerfully, standing up straight and tucking the stuffed animal under his arm. "I like it. Mind showing me what every girl would like, then?"
"Oh… sure," Lucy said, still distracted by the 'weird' comment. Inspiration struck, from daydreaming about many of the prettier items in the shop that she'd thought of wearing for a special person. "Over here."
She led him to the side glass case of jewelry, pointing down at a silver necklace on top. "Well made, and not out of a reasonable price range. It's simple and pretty; the Japanese symbol of hope. Hope is a better go because it won't scare the girl with a big declaration that sounds like love; it's just the hope that she'll give you a chance."
He was completely silent for a moment, making her shift nervously at the thought of him telling her it was stupid. Then he declared, "It's perfect! I'm buying it."
Breathing out in relief that her retail skills remained, she nodded with a smile. After she drew it out from the case and carefully closed the box up, Lucy put it onto the counter. "Will that be all?"
"This too," he said cheerfully, dropping that ridiculous stuffed animal next to the cash register.
After letting out a rather unladylike snort, she scanned the soft thing and put it into a bag, followed by the necklace. She told him the price, he paid, and he was going to be off giving that beautiful piece to some lucky girl.
Lucy couldn't help but be a little jealous; she hadn't been on a date for a long time, and they'd never gone too well. In all her books and shows, there had been kind men that loved their woman simply for being herself. In Lucy's experience, there had been douchebags that were really interested in her "rack."
"Hey." Lucy turned back to be face to face with the little snowmanish stuffed animal. Natsu was holding it out, a much smaller smile contained in his cheeks. "This is for you. Thank you for helping me look. Merry Christmas!"
A warm tingling filtered through her, absolutely touched as she took the stuffed animal. "That is so sweet of you. Thank you, and Merry Christmas, Natsu."
"Well, only a weirdo like you would like it anyway," he said, shooting her a last grin and wave before pushing through the door. "See ya tomorrow!"
Lucy's eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement at his retreating figure passing the store windows. Tomorrow? But—
Oh. The Fullbuster Christmas party. Of course.
"See you tomorrow, then," she mumbled under her breath. Then, after noticing a customer was coming towards her, she dismissed all her erratic thoughts. It wasn't going to be until after work that she thought about Natsu until her brain throbbed. She couldn't tell if the pit in her stomach was due to anticipation or anxiety. She wouldn't be surprised if it was both.
This party was definitely going to be… Weird.
The Fullbuster Christmas party was, without a doubt, the highlight of Lucy's winter.
Since her dad was far too busy shut up in his office to even realize it was getting chilly outside, he'd never really been one to celebrate the holidays, especially since her mother passed away. But when she'd gotten Gray's invitation freshman year, Lucy had been reintroduced to a world of lights and carols and friendship all wrapped in ribbon and tinsel.
It wasn't actually that big of a party, compared to most high school blowouts. A couple of his close friends, who would bring a couple of their friends. It gave a turnout of about twenty people, laughing and making merry under a twenty foot evergreen decked in color and candy canes.
Her three best friends, Levy, Erza, and Juvia had come to hang out in Lucy's mansion early in the day that Saturday, lounging and watching chick flicks shamelessly before rushing upstairs at six to change into their dresses and fix their hair. Lucy mostly helped the other three, as they all had crushes and boyfriends they—refused to admit—wanted to impress.
And Lucy had absolutely no one. Of course. Because a stuffed animal dog with a carrot for a nose did not count as a testament to deeper feelings.
But she couldn't keep from slipping off into her pink-clouded thoughts, drifting off into a daydream of someone telling her she looked pretty tonight, maybe accidentally stepping under the mistletoe that Mira hid everywhere as soon as she came, or—
"Whaaaat are you doing?" Levy mused, eyes closely following the progress of Lucy wrapping the golden tinsel around her own finger instead of in her hair.
"I am…" Lucy cleared her throat as she returned to reality. "Um, experimenting with fashion."
"Well, if you'd take a break from your fantastical discoveries with attractive tinsel rings, I'd ask you where this weird little stuffed animal thing came from," replied Levy, plucking Plue from her bedspread. "I guess it's kinda cute."
"I didn't see that when I was here studying yesterday, Lucy," Erza frowned, turning in her stunning, crimson dress. "A Christmas present from someone?"
Lucy's mind whirled, considering how much they'd tease her if she was honest. "Uh… I just… you know. Gift shop bonus."
She turned away quickly from them, untwining the tinsel and making herself busy by weaving it into Levy's curls like a crown.
"And that makes you blush because… why?" Levy was smirking; Lucy hadn't even seen her look back.
"It doesn't," quipped Lucy, tucking in the last wire. "It's just a little present. It doesn't mean he has a crush on me or anyth—"
"He?!" Juvia sat up straighter, ears perking up. Oh, she was in for an interrogation now.
"A boy gave it to you?"
"Who is it?!"
"Was he cute?"
"Did he ask you out?"
"Stop, guys!" Lucy hissed, backing away slightly as they bounced around her in circles. "It was just some guy looking for a present for the girl he likes and he was going to buy this! I told him he should get something else and he did, but he also got this and gave it to me to… to thank me for helping him!"
"Well, I don't care who his crush is; that's the sweetest thing and if he's cute I say you flaunt what you got and steal 'im!" Levy declared.
"You sound like Cana. We don't need two of those."
"What is his name?" Erza demanded, grabbing Lucy by the shoulders.
"N-Natsu," Lucy stammered at Erza's steady stare. "G-Gray's friend."
"Juvia has no more love rivals!" said girl cheered gleefully, and Lucy groaned at their unwarranted enthusiasm.
"For the recorded eighty-ninth time, Juvia, I have absolutely no inclination towards Gray, nor have I ever, and I d-don't for… for Natsu either!"
"Whatever you say," Levy said busily, but then picked up the red ribbon and began to reel some out. "But this would go lovely around your neck with that gorgeous white dress of yours, and I am curling your hair and putting some holly in it. Whether or not the boy likes you or you like him…" She let out a cough that sounded suspiciously like "totally does". "You are gonna knock him out the second he lays eyes on you."
"I hate you all."
"Love you too," Levy giggled while prancing around her with the ribbon.
With that, the girls began to put the final touches to their outfits. Levy wouldn't stop gushing about Lucy's new love interest, Erza constantly daydreamed about the strawberry cake that would surely be there, and Juvia was off into her own little world filled with Gray and Gray only.
"Okay, girls, let's go," Erza declared once they were all content with their appearances.
"Yes, ma'am!" the girls sang, picking up their Secret Santa presents. Making their way out of Lucy's mansion, they headed towards the Fullbuster Christmas party, grateful the walk wasn't too long. By the time the girls were knocking on Gray's front door, their exposed legs were causing them to shiver slightly. Immediate warmth circled around them when the door swung open, revealing a smirking boy wearing a lazily placed santa hat with no shirt in sight.
"Merry Christmas!" the girls exclaimed simultaneously, Juvia being the loudest.
"Welcome, welcome," Gray beckoned them inside with an unfaltering smirk. "You can put your presents under the tree. Want anything to drink?"
Lucy couldn't stop herself from stealing a glimpse at the rest of the neatly wrapped presents already sitting under the tree as her present joined the others. She paused after noticing a particular present—the shape being oddly familiar. So familiar, she felt as if she could see the jewelry inside of it. Before she was the last one to be admiring the presents, she placed her contribution beneath the tree.
"Where's everyone else?" Levy asked curiously while they wandered into the kitchen. Pouring themselves some soda, they heard several howls come from the living room. The laughter was almost enough to shake the entire house.
"In there," Gray responded simply, now leading the girls to the voices that only seemed to get louder. "Oi, everyone, the final guests are here!"
Lucy was the last to enter the living room, instantly locking eyes with a pair of entrancing, onyx ones. Time seemed to be frozen as Natsu and her blankly stared at one another for a couple of moments. It wasn't until she forced herself to send him a smile when time resumed flowing.
"Are you going to sit down anytime soon?" a rough voice inquired bluntly.
"W-What?" she blurted out, hardly realizing Levy, Erza, and Juvia were already seated. She briefly scanned the living room to find an open spot, noticing Natsu scooting over on the couch he was on. He lightly cleared his throat as he patted the now unoccupied spot. Reluctantly, she stepped towards him and sat beside him.
"You don't have to be so mean to her, Gajeel!" Levy chided sternly.
"Well, her standing while we're all sitting was annoying me," he grumbled.
"I'm running out of booze already. You have any more, Gray?" Cana freely burped out, not bothered by the bewildered looks she received.
"Cana, why don't you take a break for now?" Mira suggested.
"And don't try to give any to Wendy!" Lisanna added while swiftly snatching away the cup Cana attempted to offer.
"I wasn't going to take it, don't worry!" Wendy assured meekly.
Lucy listened to the group with amusement, feeling a pair of eyes beside her settled on her. It took all of her strength to finally look at Natsu. Her heart skipped a beat when their gazes locked.
"So, we meet again," Natsu said with a grin.
"Thanks for giving me a spot," she replied softly, smiling to show her appreciation.
"Anytime!" he guaranteed. "You're already weird, and we can't have you get any weirder, you know?"
"I'm not weird!" she proclaimed just as she did the first time. And just like last time, his eyes lit up at her reaction. Before he was able to tease her some more, Gray whistled to get everyone's attention.
"Anyone up for a game?"
"What kind of game?" Erza was the first one to ask, interest in her eyes.
"A relay," he answered with a challenging smirk. "Who's in?"
When there were no objections, Gray's smirk transformed into a mischievous grin as he surged up from his seat to retrieve the items for the relay. It wasn't long until he returned with several rolls of toilet paper in his arms. "Alright, get into groups of two!"
Lucy instinctively began to look at Levy; however, an arm linking around hers didn't give her enough time to. Her eyes widened when she realized Natsu had her trapped.
"Let's work hard together, partner!" he told her enthusiastically. Lucy gulped in response, not quite sure if being paired up with him was a good thing or not. Glancing around the room, she noted that her friends were either paired with their sibling or significant other. Well, future significant other, anyway. Lucy couldn't help but feel like her and Natsu were the oddballs of the group. Okay, Cana and Wendy were a little strange, but that was besides the point.
"Rules are simple," Gray stated, tossing one person in each group a roll. "The first person to put all their toilet paper around their partner wins. There's a catch, though. You have to make your partner look like a snowman."
"I quit," Gajeel grunted, falling back down onto the couch.
"Oh, no you don't!" Levy groaned as she used all her strength to pull him back up by his arm.
"Winner of the relay gets a special gift at the end," Gray concluded, nodding in satisfaction once Gajeel immediately stood back up at the news. Not wasting another second, Gray inhaled deeply and shouted, "Get ready, get set, go!"
"Put your arms to the sides, Lucy!" Natsu instantly commanded.
"Why me?!" she exclaimed with bewilderment, refusing to lift her arms.
"I got a plan, don't worry!" he said with such an assuring tone, it caused Lucy to hesitate. Slowly, she began to lift her arms.
"There you go," he encouraged with satisfaction as he started to wrap a few layers around her arms. "I'm going to make you the best toilet paper snowman ever."
"Snowwoman," she corrected.
"Even better!" he replied.
A smile broke out onto Lucy's face as she stayed as still as she could while Natsu worked his magic. She decided to observe everyone else in the meantime, holding back a snort each time Gajeel's piercings tore through the paper. Levy and Gajeel weren't the only one having trouble—Wendy was too short to reach Cana's shoulders, Mira and Lisanna were still deciding who should be the decorated one, and Juvia didn't dare do anything to cover up Gray. The only real competition Natsu and Lucy seemed to have was Erza and Jellal. And oh, they were going fast.
"N-Natsu, I think you should start hurrying up a bit," Lucy mentioned anxiously after noticing the small amount of toilet paper Jellal had left.
"I'm almost done," Natsu answered. "Give me a few seconds."
Lucy tried her best to not move too much as she looked down to see how Natsu had decorated her. She was entirely covered by the toilet paper, and her white dress blended in perfectly. She couldn't deny that she was more than happy with the outcome.
"Are we done?" she asked excitedly when he took a step back to inspect her.
"One more thing!" he added, his hands unraveling the scarf draped around his neck.
"W-What are you doing?" she stuttered with large eyes. She promptly forgot what breathing was as his arms came around her to place the scarf and wrap it snuggly around her. Her face was inches away from Natsu's; she was sure he could feel the warmth of her cheeks.
"You make the perfect snowwoman," he smiled at her. Simultaneously, two yells announced their victory.
"Finished!" Erza and Jellal shouted.
"That's time!" Gray instructed. "Everyone drop your rolls."
"You call that finished?" Gajeel cackled with no hesitation. "Erza looks like a mummy!"
"Yeah, Erza, you don't really look like a snowman," Lisanna remarked.
Erza squinted through the open section Jellal provided her, her voice muffled as she tried her best to speak.
"Due to poor snowman construction, Erza and Jellal are disqualified," Gray said firmly, not having the patience to let Erza finish speaking. "Anyone else finished?"
"We are!" Natsu proclaimed proudly. "I present to you, Lucy the Snowwoman!"
Lucy was grateful for Natsu's scarf since it was able to conceal her flushed face. With everyone's eyes settled on her, she couldn't help but feel self-conscious. Natsu looking at her didn't make it any better, either.
"Lucy looks amazing!" Mira gasped. "Natsu, you did really well!"
"I know," he smirked.
"I never knew you had it in you, Flame-brain," Gray scoffed. "I guess you can win this time."
"What's our present?!" Natsu demanded.
"Here you go," Gray handed Lucy a simple present bag with holiday swirls scattered across it.
Lucy peeked into the bag, feeling Natsu's impatience, so she quickly reached inside to pull out the soft fabric inside.
"Matching sweaters?" Natsu and Lucy asked at the same time, looking up at one another with dumbfounded expressions.
"That's so cute, Lucy!" Levy exclaimed, her grin being wider than usual.
"Put them on right now!" Lisanna commanded.
"Why not?" Natsu shrugged as he entered his arms into the green sweater. "How's it look?"
"Familiar," Lucy joked once she had removed the toilet paper and had her sweater on now. The two shared a laugh in response.
"Okay, they got their presents, now can we open our presents already?" Cana gave out an irritated sigh.
"You're a mean one," Lisanna muttered, though it was still loud enough for everyone to hear. The rest weren't able to hold back their snorts, receiving a glare from Cana.
Gray's nod was all it took for the group of teens to instantly transform into a group of rambunctious toddlers. As everyone sprinted to the tree in search for their gift, it was every man for himself. Lucy had to dodge Gray being thrown back by Gajeel, who was also getting thrown by Jellal. Natsu had no interest with the boys since he somehow made it to the presents before anyone else had.
Knowing that it'd only be safe after the boys had found their presents, Lucy eventually was able to go up to the tree. Her eyes widened in surprise when she realized that the present with her name on it was one that looked extremely familiar. She hesitantly picked it up, double-checking to see if it was actually her name on it.
Lucy's legs moved on their own as they brought her back to the living room and on the couch. She wasn't able to tear her eyes away from her gift. She didn't even want to unwrap it until she knew she was taking too long. Once she had forced herself to slowly peel away the wrapping paper, her heart leaped into her throat.
This couldn't be real. This necklace could not be real. What made a tingling sensation scatter across her body was the main piece of the necklace.
"It's the Japanese symbol for hope," a gentle voice mentioned beside her. Lucy looked up to find Natsu sending her a coy smile.
"When I was buying this, I was told hope is a better go because it won't scare the girl with a big declaration that sounds like love," he added.
"It's just the hope that she'll give you a chance," Lucy replied with her own smile playing across her lips.
"Was the person who told me this right?" he asked.
"I think she was," she gave a small nod.
"That's a relief," he spoke while taking the necklace from her. "Here, turn around so I can put it on you."
Lucy's cheeks immediately darkened to deep crimson as she felt Natsu's arms come around her again. Goosebumps rose on her skin when his fingers accidentally skimmed across her neck.
"Thank you so much, Natsu," she faced him with a grin once the necklace was hooked around her neck. "It's perfect!" Not thinking twice, she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She felt as if she was going to burst with joy when Natsu returned the hug.
"Merry Christmas, Lucy," he told her softly.
"Merry Christmas, Natsu," she responded. She felt as if it was just her and Natsu at that moment, but after hearing several gasps, she remembered that wasn't the case.
"You two look so good together!" Levy proclaimed.
"Juvia is so relieved now!" she chimed in.
"Hey, Mira!" Cana called out, raising her glass to them. "Where's that supposedly secret mistletoe you probably hung all over? And maybe some rope to get two dorks under it?"
"Cana, no!" Lucy begged.
Mira smirked. "There's one in the doorway, Cana."
Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope everyone enjoyed this surprise one-shot! :-)
I never thought I was ever going to do a collab with someone, let alone do a collab with one of the best Nalu authors ever, LoneStorm. She is seriously such a sweetheart, and if you haven't read The Keys Of Fire yet, what are you doing?
It was loads of fun to be able to write with her and although she's on a total different level than me, I'm grateful she actually put up with me. :')
This one-shot is also on Ry's tumblr, if you guys want to read it there as well! Her username is the same one as it is here.
Happy Holidays, everyone! ~